Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association Symposium Gets Underway

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Sep 26, 2013
by Oscar Tollast
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Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association Symposium Gets Underway

Annual session returns with focus on the social, economic, and political roles cities play Symposium co-chair, Christopher Bigbsy, speaking at Parker Hall

The symposium on ‘Sustainability and the City: America and the Urban World’ kick-started on Thursday evening with a presentation on the idea of the city.

Participants from 27 countries gathered in Parker Hall to listen to Christopher Bigsby, director of the Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies at the University of East Anglia.

Mr Bigbsy's lecture covered among other topics the differing definitions of the term "city" and how each person's experience of a city depends on their social background and lifestyle.

He said: "When we speak of sustainability, what do we mean? Clearly we mean our ability to sustain life and earth in the face of global warming, rising populations and finite resources.

"But what of cities? To an increasing percentage of people, cities offer wealth and progress, depending on how we choose to define progress.

"The challenge in terms of cities is to sustain the life of the individual. For if meaning exists, it does so through individuals. Those possibilities must be protected and expanded.".

Prior to Mr Bigsby’s speech, participants were officially welcomed by Marty Gecek, chair of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), and symposium director.

Ms Gecek said: "Each of you has certain expectations about this symposium: what's in it for you? What do you want to get out of it? What is your role here?

"I'm certain that our speakers will certainly stimulate you with their presentations on this very exciting theme, but dialogue is the key word for the next few days here.

"Unlike typical academic conferences, especially in Europe, where many papers are read, our programs provide many opportunities for discussion and to provoke international, educational and intellectual exchange."

Clare Shine, Vice President and Chief Program Officer of Salzburg Global, also extended her welcome to the group.

Ms Shine said: "Our mission to challenge present and future leaders to solve issues of global concern has not shifted. Nor has our total dedication to American studies as a way of helping young and older people to understand roles and responsibilities of great power in the world today.

"It's wonderful timing that you're here now to look at sustainability and the city, because that is going to be the bedrock of how we form the citizens of tomorrow."

Salzburg Global recently held a session on 'A Climate for Change: Governance for Sustainability' with its report made available online earlier this month.

The SSASA was founded in 2003 to build upon the work of 32 sessions organized by the American Studies Center.

It has been able to provide an opportunity for anyone in the field of American Studies to meet and learn from other experts in the field, attending symposia at the Schloss Leopoldskron devoted to broad American themes.

This year’s four-day session will draw on a range of disciplines to examine the future of the city in America, and other cities around the world.

The session will examine the dynamics that make up the social and cultural dimensions of the modern global city, focusing on common issues, inter-related relationships and future trends.

Participants are American Studies academics, urban sociologists, urban planners, architects and others interested in the study of the city.

Questions that participants will explore include:

  1. What is the significance of urban living to those in the rapidly growing American, Asian, and other great cities?
  2. Are global cities extraterritorial, sharing more with one another than with the country in which they are situated?
  3. What role does the city play in shaping the lives, values, attitudes, and well-being of those who live in them?
  4. How attuned to human needs and desires are they?
  5. What is the role of the architect and planner in the future of cities?
  6. How can cities become innovators in sustainability?